Forum News 27 article: Protected Area Planning for the Central Peaks Alien plant control at High Peak and Casons
Forum News 28 article: St Helena Bryophytes study finds species new to science
Forum News 29 article: Invertebrate survey in the relict cloud forest of St Helena
Forum News 32 article: Protected Area Planning for the Central Peaks
Diana's Peak National Park, which includes the three tallest Peaks Cuckhold's Point, Diana's Peak and Mount Actaeon, was established on the 14th March 1996 to protect the largest remaining fragments of endemic Tree Fern Thicket and Cabbage Tree Woodland on the eastern end of the Island's central ridge. The action that has been taken by the ECS of the ANRD to reduce the threat of alien weeds within the Diana's Peak National Park since 1995 is exemplary. Continuity of weed control has been maintained, together with replanting programmes and the results are clear to see, the flora and fauna now has a chance of survival. But there is no room for complacency, this is just an initial step and success will only be measured in the long-term. It is therefore of great concern that there is no long-term plan for the strategic management of the Park, since the first plan, A Management Plan for Diana's Peak National Park (1996-2000), Smith, D and Williams, N (1996), went out of date. Nor are there the resources or capacity to achieve this within the SHG alone. High Peak, 798m, and also the nearby Peaks of Mt Vesey, the Depot and nr Coles Rock (need to identify this properly) on the western end of the Central Ridge are extraordinarily rich in biodiversity, desperately endangered and isolated from the main fragments of native forest within the Diana's Peak National Park by pasture, forestry and former flax plantation. Alien invaders, including flax are eliminating what remains of these unique ecosystems. The tiny fragment of forest at High Peak supports a surprising number of endemic invertebrates species, including 3 species of woodlice and a Linyphiidae spider, that have never been recorded from anywhere else on the Island and at least a further 15 endemic species (representing 12 distinct genera) that have been recorded at High Peak and either on the central ridges or in one other site elsewhere but of which little further is known. Despite it's small size the area supports approximately 75% of the world's population of the critically endangered Large Bellflower. Extremely worryingly the population size of the Large Bellflower appeared to decrease by 69% between 1997 and 2002 due primarily to encroachment from alien weeds. The entire wild population of the False Gumwood (9) is found on Mt Vesey (8) and Nr Coles Rock (1). These unique species, and those we don't yet know (much) about, will become extinct without intervention to prevent the destruction of their habitat from the unrelenting advance of New Zealand Flax, Furze, Ulex europeaus, Bilberry, and Whiteweed. Cronk (2000) states that New Zealand flax, appears, from my own observations, to be spreading at a rate of about 5 m a year from abandoned flax plantations into the tree fern, germinating on the trunks of the ferns and eventually rooting into the ground to form a dense cover destroying the indigenous ecosystem entirely. Based on his estimate the fragment of tree fern thicket and cabbage trees on the southern slope of High Peak could be entirely lost within 30 years or one (tree fern/cabbage tree) generation. Human and financial resources currently severely limit Government's capacity to implement effective and sustainable programmes to preserve High Peak (High Peak, which includes the gumwood forest at Peak Dale.
Discontinuity with regards to conservation scars our history and it would be inexcusable to allow it to be repeated. This project will therefore ensure that the groundwork for intervention and ecological restoration of High Peak is established and provide for the development of strategic management of the Peaks as a whole.
The project addresses the urgent need for a comprehensive management strategy for Diana's Peak since the first management plan (Diana's Peak National Park: The Management Plan for 1996-2001, Smith, D and Williams, N (1996)) became obsolete in 2001. By significantly expanding the area of Peaks under management the project will establish a framework for the ecological restoration of the upland forest and cloud forest ecosystems and links this to improving the quality of life for Islanders through access to information, education & enjoyment (value, pride, amenity) of the environment, increased potential for tourism, guided tours and other related small-scale economic opportunities, educational and improved hydrology management. Currently there are only designated Protected Areas within the Strategic Land Use Planning Document for the Island. Protected Areas Legislation has been enacted although further public consultation is needed before the Regulations will be brought into force. To date no Protected Area has a management plan. This project will establish the first protected area management plan. When the other protected areas are defined and management strategies developed, whilst each will be specific, there will be process similarities that can be shared. The project has wide ranging benefits to the people of St Helena and visitors. Improved management of the Peaks as a water catchment will provide long-term benefits to people by improving ground water availability. Looking wider this project will create a more accessible tourist attraction, providing increased potential for tourism, guided tours, related small-scale economic opportunities and educational use.
- Initiation of Protected Area management planning process for the Peaks. The planning process will include:
Public information and participation - generating broader knowledge about Peaks and the species it supports, encouraging visitors/volunteers and facilitating environmental education/activities.
Integration of all other planning processes such as Hydrology Catchment Management, Land Use, and Tourism
Discussions with SHG to secure agreement for future management and funding.
- Detailed technical plan to control New Zealand Flax and other weeds on vertical slopes within Diana's Peak National Park and High Peak (much of the southern slope of High Peak is precipitous cliff and so offers considerable and different challenges compared to DPNP).
- A literature review of invertebrates will be carried out in the first instance to identify invertebrates associated with different habitats. The literature review will involve all collection sites surveyed by the Belgians as all species will need to be checked against where they were found. It would also be important to incorporate Wollaston's data on beetles from the 19th century which can be extracted from the Belgians' accounts. The availability of Wollaston's and the Belgians' data provides a very unusual opportunity for assessing changes over 140 and the last 40 years respectively. An analysis of these data and comparison with the results of a new survey should produce a long term view of any trends, and really be far more valuable than year to year monitoring for anything other than the very easily identified things. This work will be done on Access database, planned by Myrtle Ashmole with assistance from Edward Thorpe in the UK.
Preliminary weed control at High Peak will be initiated in accessible areas through a combination of volunteer and contract programmes.
- To enable focused effort in line with Species Recovery Plans for the Large Bellflower, False Gumwood, She Cabbage, Dwarf Jellico, He Cabbage and Small Bellflower, necessary equipment, climbing training and certification for ECS staff and NGO volunteers will be sought from the Fire and Rescue Service. This will be done over a period of two years.
- Promotional material to raise awareness of the Peaks. The project will raise awareness of why the Peaks are so special with the aim of encouraging broad local support for restoration and increase volunteer contributions to activities based there, as well as gain political and international support to help meet the costs of restoration.The process will be co-ordinated by the NT and carried out with the stakeholder group. The production, endorsement and publication of the Protected Area Plan in year 2 of the project will be a measure of successful achievement.
- Implementation of programme to eradicate NZ Flax from the vertical slopes.
- Surveying of invertebrates. Primary aim to demonstrate the presence (or implied absence) of endemic species and assessment of their ranges. Indiscriminate collecting would not be involved. It may also be possible to make a serious attempt to find out how many of the endemic beetles and other invertebrates specific to the Peaks are still present on the island. We feel that demonstration (hopefully) that many of them are still present would immeasurably increase the strength of the case for long-term conservation efforts.
- Survey of lower plants.
The project will be achieved through the direct involvement of a combination of Government Departments, Non Government Organisations and private sector land owners/managers. These primary stakeholders will form the project steering group and it is anticipated that this group will evolve to become a management authority with responsibilities for implementing the protected area plan. Land management will continue to be achieved through Government and private sector landowners/managers. Increased dedicated resources are likely to be required post project. It is anticipated that this will be achieved through a variety of means such as: increased budget for the Environmental Conservation Section (Councillors will be better equipped to make budgetary decisions as a result of this project); Continued involvement of the National Trust, (possibly as a land manager - if private or government land is handed over or leased to the Trust - and there is an indication that one landowner is prepared to do this) committed to raising awareness and funds for the Peaks and through encouraging landowners/managers to plant endemics on ridge land through the establishment of a forestry grant scheme. Educational activities will continue through integration within the schools' curricula. The National Trust will maintain its programme of environmental education amongst schools and the youth of the Island. Survey reports and databases will be maintained jointly by the Environmental Planning and Development Section of DEPD and the National Trust. Interpretation displays sited at the Peaks and within the museum will be maintained by the Environmental Conservation Section and the Museum respectively.
This project will complement the implementation of the Environment Charter on St Helena by addressing some of the priorities likely to arise from the charter process.
3. Ensure the restoration and protection of key habitats, species and landscape features through legislation and appropriate management structures and mechanisms, including a protected areas policy, and attempt the control and eradication of invasive species.
(i) The remnant habitat fragments and species extant on High Peak, the Depot, and Mt Vesey will be lost without the intervention that this project will provide the basis for.
(ii) Species recovery programmes for five endemic critically endangered and six endangered plant species will be supported through this project.
(iii) Protected Area plan produced for the Peaks. Lessons learnt from this project can be transcribed to the development of other protected areas that will be established under a system of protected areas for St Helena.
(iv) The methodology for the control of invasive species on vertical slopes.
6. Implement effectively obligations under the Multilateral Environmental Agreements already extended to St Helena
(i)Contributes to implementation of CBDand work towards the extension of other relevant agreements
7. Review the range, quality and availability of baseline data for natural resources and biodiversity
(i) We do not know what endemic invertebrates still exist in various parts of the Peaks but we believe that the case for conservation on the ridge outside DPNP (and to some extent also within it) rests primarily on demonstrating the presence of a whole suite of endemic plants and animals and not just on a few conspicuous species that we already know to be there. It is accepted that often in conservation, if you look after the habitats the species will look after themselves. But effective conservation, as has already been demonstrated on St Helena for the endemic plant genera Trochetiopsis, Elaphoglossum, Commidendrum and Nesohedyotis, depends on knowing what endemics are present and understanding something of the threats to particular species. We also believe that such knowledge will be very important in making a case for future conservation funding.
(ii) We do not know what lichens and mosses exist in the various parts of the Peaks1.
(iii) We do not have enough information to establish the status or distribution of four endangered endemic plant species (Lycopodium axillare (status as an endemic not confirmed, possibly indigenous but also possibly extinct!), Dryopteris cognata, Dryopteris napoloeonis and Carex praelalta.
(iv)Genetic research has yielded data to assist recovery planning for Elaphoglossum nervosum and Elaphoglossum dimorphum. Further research is needed to help answer questions about genetic diversity and hybridisation in Wahlenbergia linifolia and Sium burchelli. In the conclusion to her thesis, Evolution and Conservation of Commidendrum and Elaphoglossum from St Helena, Antonia Eastwood (2002) remarks "Only through an understanding of species relationships, patterns of evolution, ecology and reproduction in rare plants can we make informed conservation decisions and plan effective species recovery programmes."
9. Encourage teaching within schools to promote the value of our local environment (natural and built) and to explain its role within the regional and global environment
(i) Pupils from Prince Andrew School (PAS) will be involved through a community programme for year 12 students. Young people will be additionally encouraged to get involved in the project through the New Horizons Project for 11 - 21 year olds that could complement and extend the work achieved within PAS.
(ii)The ECS, EPD and National Trust (including Museum) all have close links with the schools on the island. The involvement of young people is seen as an integral part of the development of the project. Throughout the project all promotional material and key findings will be done in an easily understood format suitable for use in Schools.
(iii)Guides will be established to take visitors on tours of the Peaks and an education programme be run for these guides.
10. Promote publications that spread awareness of the special features of the environment in St Helena; promote within St Helena the guiding principles set out above.
(i) The protected area plan will be published and made available both locally and elsewhere.
(ii) Species recovery plans for at least 7 species included in the project will be published.
(iii) Interpretation displays will be developed for permanent display at the museum.
(iv) Interpretation boards will be established at access points to High Peak and the Stitches Ridge access point to Diana's Peak National Park.
(v) Promotional material will be produced throughout the project and disseminated widely both locally and abroad.
11. Abide by the principles set out in the Rio Declaration on environment and development and work towards meeting International development Goals on the environment.
2. Aarhus (not yet extended to St Helena but extension being considered for a later date).
The project will involve government, the National Trust, volunteers and others working together. It will therefore provide an example of a community participatory approach to conservation. It will also be the first protected area management plan produced on St Helena. Lessons learnt from this can be applied elsewhere, in the development of other protected areas on St Helena and in other Overseas Territories.Establishing procedures for the control of New Zealand Flax and other plant invaders on vertical slopes will contribute to the international 'collective' knowledge on the control of alien invasive species.
The Millennium Forest Project provides an example of how Government and non government organisations and individuals can work together to establish a conservation project firmly based on and appropriately dependent upon community participation. The key individuals and organisations involved in the Millennium Forest Project are also key participants of this project. Therefore the skills and experience gained from the MFP can be directly applied to this project. St Helena is one of the Territories involved in the Millennium Seed Bank Project. The project aims to underpin the conservation of rare threatened and/or endemic native plant species in a suite of territories through training in seed conservation techniques, technology transfer and capacity building. Project activities are expected to be conducted on St Helena later this year, (later than anticipated) and such activities will complement this project. It is anticipated that the same personnel will be involved in both projects.
Ascension Island is developing a project to establish Green Mountain as its first national park. There are distinct similarities between the projects and opportunities do exist for information sharing and collaboration. The IUCN Species Survival Commission South Atlantic Islands Plant Specialist Group, Chaired by Dr Cairns-Wicks, provides one such avenue of collaboration and has already approached the IUCN for assistance through their Protected Areas Programme.A UNDP environmental adviser/trainer is expected to work with the EPD for 6 weeks to 3 months in July-August 04. He has expertise in Protected Areas and will be available to provide technical advice on the planning process. If a separate funding bid is successful Dr Mike Pienkowski, Chair of the UKOTCF, is expected to be on Island from 31 July - 16 August to provide advice on the Environmental Charter process. His advice will be sought on project management and the participatory process (developing further the working links between the various interested parties).
Funded by FCO/DFID Overseas Territories Environment Programme, 2004. Project no. STH 003